Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
Middle School and Up
Download and Share
Lindsay Knippenberg
Student Worksheets (handout and data sheet)
Video of Experimental Design and Procedure (see Resources section)
Daily Pictures of Bacteria Growth from PolarTREC Journal (see Resources section)
Access to individual computers (complete assignment individually) or projector (complete assignment as a class)
Life Science
Tools and Methods
Evolution and Diversity
Organisms and Their Environments


We know that we have lots of microorganisms growing where we live, but can microorganisms like bacteria also live in the harsh, cold, dry climate of Antarctica? Part of our research project in Antarctica is looking at the microorganisms that live in the Taylor Glacier. We are taking dirty ice (ice with lots of dirt/sediment in it) and clean ice (ice without sediment) samples and analyzing them to see if they contain microorganisms and if the microorganisms are alive. In this activity, we will be sampling different types of ice and other common places to see if we can find some microorganisms living in Antarctica!


  1. All students should be able to identify the conditions necessary for microorganisms to grow and reproduce.
  2. All students should be able to identify the tools and procedures necessary to culture microorganisms.
  3. All students should be able to describe the adaptations necessary for organisms to grow and reproduce in the Antarctic environment.

Lesson Preparation

This lesson is pretty easy to do. Students use the PolarTREC journal to watch the set-up of the experiment in the field and then analyze the results by viewing pictures and completing the data sheet. Very little preparation is needed except for setting up internet access or signing up for the computer lab. Students should have an idea of what microorganisms are, how they reproduce, and what they need from their environment to survive before completing the assignment.


This assignment can be done together as a class, individually or in small groups using a computer lab, or as a homework assignment if students have internet access at home.

  • Answer pre-lab questions
  • Watch video of the set-up of the experiment
  • Make hypotheses
  • Use the pictures of daily microorganism growth to complete the data table
  • Analyze the results and answer the follow up questions


A follow-up activity would be to use the same procedures to have the students culture their own microorganisms. Students could swab similar places that we did (hands, shoes, dirt, etc.) to see how fast they get growth in their climate or they could set up their own temperature-growth experiment.


Lindsay Knippenberg's PolarTREC journal:

Microbiology of Permanently Cold and Frozen Environments: (current news and pictures of the microorganisms found in Antarctica)


Follow-up questions (see student handout).


Lindsay Knippenberg. PolarTREC 2009. lknippenberg [at]


5-8 9-12 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard C: Life Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry e. Diversity and adaptations of organisms Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard C: Life Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry c. Biological evolution
Attachment Size
Microorganisms Complete Lesson354 KB 354 KB
Microorganisms Data Table80.41 KB 80.41 KB
Microorganisms Student Handout67.09 KB 67.09 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.